Friday, July 31, 2009

With a New Third Base Prospect in Town, How's the Old Third Base Prospect Doing?

Billy Rowell's cup is half full despite his .219 average for the Frederick Keys. So says Kevin Minnick of the Courier Post in the article "Rowell remains positive."
While Billy Rowell's individual statistics aren't where he'd like them to be, the 2006 Bishop Eustace Prep graduate isn't ready to fold the tent. In fact, Rowell is as focused today on improving as a professional baseball player as he was when he arrived early to spring training.

"You can't get frustrated because you're not putting up the kind of numbers you want," said Rowell, who was taken by the Baltimore Orioles with the ninth overall pick in the 2006 draft. "All you can do is work harder and hope something clicks. You can't get down on yourself. That doesn't help the situation.

"I definitely see improvements. They may not be number-wise, but I've hit a few more homers and I'm getting experience and seeing how pitchers are pitching me."
More after the jump.

Past Roar from 34 postings about Rowell:

The Local Angle on Billy Rowell

Checking in on Billy the Kid

"O"dds and Ends: A Collection of Orioles News

The O's on Deck rundown on Rowell:

Predict the future -- Bill Rowell

Flashback Friday: One of Dave Johnson's Finest Oriole Moments

"The 29-year-old right-hander gave a performance that epitomized this entire Orioles season."

-Tom Boswell
The Washington Post
Oct. 1, 1989

Dave Johnson's emotional on-air moment after finding out that his son, Steve Johnson, had become an Oriole was, as Steve Melewski writes, "just special, no other way to describe it." It was a perfect antidote to the renewed cynicism generated by the other big baseball news of the day out of Boston.

O's fans hope that Steve Johnson will produce some memorable moments in his home town. This week's Flashback Friday looks at one of his father's most memorable moments as an Oriole --- a seven inning, two-hit, two-run performance against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sept. 30, 1989 that kept the Birds' fading pennant hopes alive, if only briefly.

The Orioles lost to the Blue Jays 4-3 on Sept. 30, thereby ending their "Why Not?" pennant chase on the heels of a 107-loss 1988 season. However, as The Washington Post's Tom Boswell said of Johnson the following day, "The 29-year-old right-hander gave a performance that epitomized this entire Orioles season."

Johnson - "the aged rookie, the hometown journeyman, the career scuffler who drives an 18-wheeler in the offseason and still lives in a mobile home" - was called into duty three hours before game time with the Orioles staring down a one-and-done scenario with their post-season hopes. Starter Pete Harnisch was scratched from the start after stepping on a nail while walking back to the team hotel the night before.

Though he had posted an 0-5 mark in his previous seven starts, Johnson rose to the occasion in front of 49,553 fans at SkyDome and a national television audience, providing the O's with a chance to extend their season for one more game.

He walked three, struck out none, and relied heavily on the outfield defense of Phil Bradley, Mike Devereaux, and Stanley Jefferson; nevertheless, Johnson left the game with the O's leading 3-1 after facing one batter in the eighth inning. However, the bullpen failed to hold the lead.

From The Post:
Like the Orioles' whole dream of a worst-to-first season, this fantasy was too attenuated to stand scrutiny. Johnson walked the leadoff man in the Toronto eighth. Reliever Kevin Hickey walked the next man. On came Williamson. After a sacrifice, the Blue Jays showed their mettle as Mookie Wilson and McGriff delivered RBI singles and Bell brought in the deciding run with a sacrifice fly.

"It was real disappointing sitting there watching the walls crumble," said Johnson, who somehow rediscovered his confidence despite entering the game with an 0-5 record in his previous seven starts.

"These last two games were like the scenario of the whole season," said the veteran Bradley. "We got ahead and they caught us."
Image Source: Here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Forget Obama; Nick Markakis and Carl Crawford Should Sit Down for a Beer

A.L. East foes deserve a piece of the spotlight, but they operate in the shadows

Barack Obama will sit down for a beer on Thursday with Officer Crowley and Professor Gates. Nick Markakis may want to consider doing the same thing with Carl Crawford.

Granted, Markakis and Crawford don't have a disagreement to settle like Crowley and Gates.

And there's no Obama in this scenario looking to benefit from a well-orchestrated photo op. Heck, the two outfielders could sit down in the middle of the ESPN studio without anyone bothering them, except possibly to ask for a Red Sox or Yankees score update.

Rather, the players should get together to shed tears in their respective beers as they consider the same question that the Black Eyed Peas have been asking since 2003: "Where is the Love?"

More after the jump.

I've remarked since his rookie year that Markakis is under-appreciated. And while I read articles early in Crawford's career stating that the outfielder was a fantasy baseball "steal" (no pun intended), I've only recently come to recognize just how overlooked he too has been.

Articles that have been written about Crawford since the All-Star Game (you may have heard that he was the MVP) show that he operates in the same A.L. East shadows as Markakis, especially when it comes to defensive performance.

Consider this Yahoo! Sports article following the Midsummer Classic.

Making his third All-Star appearance, Crawford was elected by his fellow players as a reserve. He came off the bench as a pinch hitter in the fifth and singled his first time up before finishing 1 for 3.

Statistics show Crawford is one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball. But curiously, he’s never won a Gold Glove.

This could be the catch that clinches one.

Then there's the July 27 Sports Illustrated article "The Running Man" that echoes this sentiment about Crawford's defensive prowess.
Dude can also hit; according to, the 27-year-old Crawford is most statistically similar to Roberto Clemente at the same age. He plays Gold Glove--caliber defense, too, though in his eight major league seasons he has never won a Gold Glove. ("He closes on balls faster than anyone," says Blue Jays centerfielder Vernon Wells. "That he doesn't have one is an injustice.")
Markakis, as well as O's fans, can relate to statements like "curiously, he's never won a Gold Glove" and "He plays Gold-Glove caliber defense ... he has never won a Gold Glove" (For the fans perspective, see Weaver's Tantrum and Dempsey's Army.)

Nevertheless, Crawford is creeping closer to the spotlight, and his example is one that Markakis will hopefully soon follow. The path to center stage leads through the All-Star Game and the playoffs.

There's also the regular season's big stages - Boston and New York - but Markakis already knows how to handle those.

Just check his line from last week's consecutive series with the Yankees and Red Sox: .370 (average and OBP), 3 home runs, 7 RBIs and one ticket to the gun show issued to Jacoby Ellsbury - assist number 11 of the season, if you're counting (and O's fans are).

Image: Here.

To Trade or Not to Trade? That is the (Tricky) Question

Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnanski takes on the tricky question of whether to exchange potential for proven talent on the trade market in his interesting column "Gamble tomorrow for today? That's the decision GMs must make."

More after the jump.

While Posnanski focuses primarily on trade-deadline maneuvering, he mentions the Bedard deal to demonstrate that "it's a high-risk game trading away prospects."
Before last season, the Seattle Mariners, fresh off a fluky 88-win season, felt like they were one pitcher away from being a World Series contender. They traded for overpowering Orioles' lefty Erik Bedard. Unfortunately, Bedard got hurt and the Mariners were actually quite awful -- they would end up losing 101 games -- and the players they traded include blossoming star Adam Jones and effective closer George Sherill.
In Baltimore, the great trade debate is almost guaranteed to include discussion of the 1996 trade deadline when the O's, under Peter Angelos' guidance, kept the likes of David Wells and Bobby Bonilla in town rather than trade away proven talent for prospects.

The O's rallied for a Wild Card berth in '96 (that's a positive), but the free-agent, roto-ball strategy of the late-'90s left the minor league cupboard bare and obscured the traditional organizational focus on player development (that's a negative).

Indeed, the trade game is a high-risk contest. Thankfully, the O's have played their hand well of late.

Reviewing the Pitching Debuts of Young O's Guns

With Chris Tillman making his debut in Wednesday's 7-3 win over the Royals, Dean Hybl at Baltimore Sports Then and Now reviews how other Orioles prospects have fared in their respective first starts for the Birds.

Hybl's rundown of McNally, Palmer, Flanagan, McGregor, Boddicker, Davis, Mussina, and Bergesen is an entertaining read, and it points to two key ways in which the game has changed.

First, many of the pitchers on this list went seven or more innings in their first starts during a time when the bullpen wasn't used nearly as frequently as it is today. By comparison, not one of the O's four rookie starters who won in their big league debut went more 5.2 innings the first time out (David Hernandez - 5 2/3 innings; Koji Uehara - 5 innings; Jason Berken - 5 innings; Brad Bergesen - 5.2 innings). Meanwhile, Tillman went 4.2 innings on Wednesday.

Second, the bullpen used to serve as a proving ground where future starters could learn to pitch against big league hitters. Palmer, Flanagan, McGregor, and Davis all spent time in the pen early in their careers.

Read an excerpt from Hybl's post after the jump.

With Chris Tillman scheduled to make his first start in the majors, I thought it would be interesting to go back in time and see how some of the great pitchers in Baltimore Orioles history fared in their first appearance and first career start for the Birds.

In almost all cases, the results were pretty impressive and signs of future greatness to come.


Dave McNally – Career Debut: September 26, 1962

It is tough to do much better in a major league debut than left-hander Dave McNally.

In the final days of the 1962 season, the 19-year old McNally joined the big-league squad for one start against the Kansas City Athletics.

Displaying the form that would help him post four 20+ victory seasons and win 181 games in 13 seasons with the Orioles, McNally allowed only two hits with three walks and four shutouts. Baltimore won the game 3-0 for McNally’s first career win.

The performance helped McNally secure a spot on the team for 1963 and he posted a 7-8 record with 20 starts and 29 appearances.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Keep Your Orioles Panic in Perspective

It's okay to be frustrated with the Orioles' struggles out of the second-half gate, but those struggles do not say as much about the near-term future of the franchise as Peter Schmuck assumes in his article "Now it's OK to worry about the O's rebuilding."

As evidence, consider the second-half fortunes of other franchises that were on the cusp of breaking long streaks of consecutive losing seasons, which suggest that The Orioles' Second-Half Record Will Not Matter.

Tampa Bay

The Rays were 32-43 (.427 win percentage) after the '07 break, an improvement from the 34-53 (.391) mark they posted to start the season but still no great indicator that they would storm the gates of the division's Evil Empires in 2008.

The Rays lost consecutive series to the Red Sox, Yankees, and Blue Jays, respectively, to close out 2007. For the season they were 5-13 against Boston, 8-10 against New York, and 7-11 against the Orioles. The only division opponent who didn't win their season series with the Rays in 2007 was the Blue Jays, who finished 9-9 against Tampa.

One year later the Rays won their season series with Boston (10-8), Baltimore (15-3), and Toronto (11-7). Only the Yankees topped them in '08 (7-11).


The Tigers endured 12 straight losing seasons before righting the ship in 2006 and sailing to the World Series. The Tigers' 2005 record after the break was 29-47 (.382). They ended the season by losing five straight and 13 of 17.


The 2005 Brewers finished an even .500 to end a 12-season losing streak. The Brewers' 2004 record after the break was 22-53 (.293). They were 5-15 in their last 20 games.

Kansas City

The Royals finished 83-79 in 2003 to end a run of nine straight losing seasons. The Royals' 2002 record after the break was 29-48 (.377). They were swept by Cleveland, who finished 74-88, to end the season.

Combined second-half record of four teams that went on to break a long stretch of losing seasons the following year: 112-191 (.369)

The Orioles are going to take their lumps down the stretch, but the experience will provide some needed seasoning in a a low-pressure environment for the team's young players. In other words, use Matt Wieters 4-for-5 night at the plate as reason for optimism rather than looking at another frustrating loss to the Royals as a reason to abandon ship.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nery a Concern About the O's Pitching Depth

"Once I got into spring training, I realized how much depth the Orioles organization has, especially pitchers."

-Nathan Nery, Frederick Keys

Perhaps you're really interested in the minor leagues.

Or maybe you appreciate any article that refers to the Orioles' farm system as "loaded with pitching prospects."

Either way, you'll enjoy Chuck Curti's feature story on Keys pitcher Nathan Nery "In too deep: Orioles' pitching-rich system doesn't deter Nery."

Read an excerpt after the jump.

Three years into his professional career, however, the Moon Area High School graduate is proving that his game is no eyesore.

After going 7-3 with low Class A Delmarva a year ago then starting 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA there this season, Nery is 3-4 with a 4.59 ERA for high-A Frederick.

“Really, coming into this year, I felt after going 7-3 last year ... I felt like I had the opportunity to come in and go straight to high-A,” said Nery, who will turn 24 next month.

“Once I got into spring training, I realized how much depth the Orioles organization has, especially pitchers.

“We’ve been drafting a lot of pitchers.”

Nery said that only now is he beginning to reach his potential. Much of that has to do with a significant mechanical adjustment.


But with so many good young pitchers in the Orioles’ system, the possibility exists that Nery’s professional future lies with another organization.

Nery is at a stage in his career where he would be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft in December. If left unprotected by the Orioles, it might be a signal that, if he is to reach the majors, he’ll have to do it through another team’s system.

For his part, Nery said he’ll focus on pitching and continue to primp his game for the next level.

“I can only control what I can control, and that’s my pitching,” he said. “I have to let my pitching do the talking.

“We do just have a stockpile in pitching, and we’ve had a lot of scouts at our games. Those are all things that are out of my control.”

Image source: The original article.

Six Degrees of Orioles Separation - Kansas City Royals Edition

Kansas City's roster includes many names familiar to O's fans.

The Royals have former Orioles John Bale (2001) , Ryan Freel (2009), Bruce Chen (2005-2006), Luis Hernandez (2007-2008), and Sidney Ponson (1998-2005). You can even throw in utility man Tug Hulett, son of former Orioles infielder Tim Hulett (1989 - 1994), for good measure.

But what about the less obvious connections? Six degrees of Orioles Separation seeks to connect a current player from an opposing team to a past Orioles player through trades in six moves or less.

Using those guidelines we can connect 34-year-old Royals pitcher Jamey Wright to Orioles great Eddie Murray in four moves.

Jamey Wright

1 - On Aug. 29, 2002, Wright was traded by the Milwaukee Brewers with cash to the St. Louis Cardinals for Chris Morris. The St. Louis Cardinals sent Mike Matthews to the Milwaukee Brewers to complete the trade.

2 - How did the Cardinals acquire Matthews in order to make that deal? On Aug. 24, 1999, the Cardinals traded Kent Merker to the Red Sox for Matthews and David Benham.

3 - Kent Merker played part of the 1996 season with the Orioles.

4 - On July 21, 1996, Merker was traded by the Orioles to the Cleveland Indians in order to bring Eddie Murray back home for his 500th home run.

So if you happen to be out at Camden Yards this week for the Royals series, tip your cap to Jamey Wright for "helping" bring Eddie Murray back to Baltimore.

Image: here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Jake Arrieta, Kam Mickolio, and Dennis Sarfate Sightings in Durham

The Norfolk Tides looked sharp in Durham this weekend in their black road unis featuring the "Norfolk" script.

Unfortunately, Jake Arrieta's pitching wasn't as sharp in a 4-2 loss.

Arrieta faced occasional control problems during his four-inning stint against the Bulls. More problematic was his inability to effectively mix his fastball with off-speed offerings to fool Durham's hitters.

Justin Ruggiano certainly wasn't fooled when he struck a long first-inning home run that easily cleared the iconic snorting bull at Durham Bulls Athletic Park on a line. Arrieta's line for the evening: 4 IP, 6H, 3 ER, 5 strikeouts, 3 walks.

Kam Mickolio and Dennis Sarfate contributed three impressive innings in relief of Arrieta. Mickolio struck out four, walked none, and gave up one hit in two innings of work. Sarfate tossed one hitless innning with a strikeout and a walk.

Friday evening's finest pitching performance came from Durham's Jeremy Hellickson. In his first Triple-A start, the 22-year-old pitcher went six innings, struck out six, walked three, gave up five hits and allowed two runs.

There also were Jeff Fiorentino and Jorge Julio sightings (see pictures) at the ballpark.

Each player looked comfortable and effective in his respective role - Fiorentino going 1-for-2 with an RBI double while patrolling center field and Julio watching the action from the dugout rail.

Final random note: Former Oriole (1981) and Cincinnati Red (1983) Dallas Williams, now 50 and serving as the Tides' hitting coach, is jacked. The coach is so muscular that Roch Kubatko might be more impressed with Williams' physique than his own. Okay, that's a stretch. But I'd take Williams in a cage match.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Flashback Friday: Roric Harrison's Historical Home Run

He played one season in Baltimore for a 1972 team that finished third in the American League East with an 80-74 record.

He was on a roster filled with memorable names:

-Boog, Brooks, Belanger, and Bumbry in the field.

-Palmer, McNally, Cuellar, and Dobson - the incumbent 20-game winning foursome - on the mound.

-Davey Johnson, Johnny Oates, Elrod Hendricks, and Terry Crowley - players then, managers and coaches years later.

But for all the justifiable reasons baseball fans might have for not remembering Roric Harrison, there's a piece of trivia that makes his name significant.

Harrison was the last American League pitcher to hit a home run in an American League game before the creation of the designated hitter.

Harrison's sixth-inning leadoff homer on
Oct. 3, 1972 - his only hit in three at-bats - helped the Orioles defeat the Cleveland Indians 4-3 to earn a split in a season-ending doubleheader. Harrison picked up the win with six innings of mound work during which he allowed four hits and one earned run. He struck out one against two walks. Losing pitcher Ray Lamb surrendered three runs in six innings and finished 0-for-1 at the plate. (See the game story.)

The win secured third place in the A.L. East for the Orioles ahead of the New York Yankees.

It was Harrison's lone home run of the 1972 season, his first of five seasons in the major leagues. He won 15 International League games in 1971 but lost out on a late-season promotion to the Orioles that year after hurting his knee. The Birds traded him to the Atlanta Braves in November 1972 along with Pat Dobson, Davey Johnson, and Johnny Oates for Taylor Duncan and Earl Williams. He finished 1973 with a career-best 11 wins.

Overall, Harrison hit six career home runs, the last five for the Atlanta Braves. On June 14, 1974, he defeated Bob Gibson in a head-to-head match-up at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and went deep off of the future Hall of Famer. Harrison finished the '74 game with a line similar to the one he posted in 1972: 1-for-3 with a sixth-inning home run.

On June 17, 2006, Kris Benson become the first Orioles pitcher since Harrison to hit a home run. Benson went deep off of Pedro Martinez in a 4-2 Birds win. Bobby Witt's homer for the Rangers on June 30, 1997 was the first for an American League pitcher since Harrison's shot.

Image source: Here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Boston's Not Sporting a Bierd

As the Orioles prepare for a three-game set in Boston, now is a perfect time to revisit the off-season trade that brought David Pauley to Baltimore in exchange for Randor Bierd.

Pauley's name has come up in the discussion of potential Norfolk promotees given the recent struggles of Rich Hill and Jason Berken. Bierd's current prospects aren't quite as promising.

It's certainly not a Bedard-to-Seattle or Tejada-to-Houston type deal, but the Bierd-to-Boston trade could wind up being a wise move for the Birds.

Here's the rundown of the respective performances this season of Pauley and Bierd.

David Pauley is 7-8 in 17 starts for the Tides with a 3.73 ERA, 68 strikeouts, 23 walks, and a 1.372 WHIP. Pauley struck out eight and walked none in six innings on Tuesday in the Tides' 4-1 loss to the Gwinnett Braves. However, Pauley also committed three errors and gave up 11 hits in that outing.

Randor Bierd
is 1-0 with a 5.06 ERA in 15 games for the Pawtucket Red Sox. Bierd has struck out 20, walked 11, and holds a 1.688 WHIP. Bierd was recently placed on Pawtucket's temporary inactive list to make room for the promotion of T.J. Large from the AA Portland Sea Dogs.

Randor Bierd was a Roar from 34 favorite during his season in Baltimore, but it looks like the O's have done one better with this move. Pauley's been projected as a fifth starter in the bigs, and some day soon that's actually going to mean something more in Baltimore than journeyman or innings eater.

Image: Flickr.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Time Jim Palmer was Mistaken for a Criminal

Jim Palmer is smooth, but he's no criminal.

The book "Baltimore County Police 1874 -1999" provides an anecdote from retired Sgt. Wayne Henninger about the time he stopped Jim Palmer in a serious case of mistaken identity.

Henninger was buying a wedding ring in Baltimore when he saw a dark green 911 Porsche drive past. The Porsche matched the vehicle description for the suspect in a string of sexual assaults in Ruxton, Md., and, well, hilarity (?) ensued when the driver turned out to be Palmer.

Here's an excerpt from Henninger's tale:

When we arrived on the scene they had the young man, up against the Porsche, hands on the roof. I knew in my heart of hearts this was the big bust! The great collar of all time! I was reading my name in the papers and seeing my face on the evening television news! I advised the young man why he was stopped and asked for identification. He slowly took out his wallet, as he was softly saying 'yes sir.' I looked down at the name and read 'Jim Palmer.' I looked at the man and looked back down at the name, and, you guessed it, I had just stopped Jim Palmer, the now Hall of Fame pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles. Two weeks later I ran into Jim Palmer. He was doing fine, but driving a Corvette. He decided to sell the 911 dark green Porsche.
I've considered trading in my Pontiac Sunfire for the same reasons.

Image source
: Here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

O's Prepare for "An Interesting Few Days"

Ted Keith writes on that he sees the O's wheeling and dealing prior to the trade deadline:
Few teams figure to have as many intriguing parts as the Orioles do. One O's person said it should be "an interesting few days" for the franchise as they wait to see which (and how many) players will be sent off. Closer George Sherrill seems like the most likely to go. Other possible departures include outfielders Aubrey Huff and Luke Scott and perhaps pitchers Danys Baez -- who has asked MacPhail to inform him (rather than his agent) if he's about to be traded -- and infielder Melvin Mora as well.

You Can't Spell Woe Without "O"

The Orioles lost a 2-1 heart breaker in the Bronx on Monday night.

There's the optimistic take, courtesy of Dempsey's Army: "Keep Your Eye on the Ball."
We trotted out a rookie pitcher who didn't have his best stuff but battled and scratched his way through 6 innings all the while holding arguably the best lineup in the league to one run. 3 hits, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts. To paraphrase the song, if you can pitch there, you can pitch anywhere.

And our rookie catcher went 1-3 with a walk.

Losses still suck but let's keep in in perspective. Last night was a win for the Orioles in many ways.
The pessimistic take, courtesy of Stacey at Camden Chat: "Losers Find a Way to Lose."

That is the end of the positives. After a first inning Nick Markakis home run, the Orioles were unable to score any more runs despite having numerous opportunities. And here they are:

  1. Third inning: Matt Wieters led off the inning with a single and advanced on a wild pitch with zero outs. Cesar Izturis and Brian Roberts struck out and Markakis flew out to right field, stranding Wieters.
  2. Fifth inning: With one out, Nolan Reimold walked and Matt Wieters singled him to third. Izturis struck out and Brian Roberts flew out to center to strand them both.
  3. Sixth inning: Adam Jones hit an infield single with one out. Aubrey Huff
    grounded into a double play on the first pitch he saw.
  4. Seventh inning: Melvin Mora led off with a single. Luke Scott struck out and Reimold GIDP.
  5. Eighth inning: With one out, Izturis singled to left. Roberts doubled down the right field line but Izturis, thinking the ball was caught, started to go back to first and ended up between first and second at the same time as Brian. He got the gist and ended up on third but probably could have scored if he looked at the 3B coach. Markakis then swung at the first pitch and hit a grounder to Teixeira, who threw Izturis out at home. With Adam Jones at the plate, Phil Coke threw a wild pitch. Roberts raced home from third but in trying to avoid the tag with his headfirst slide missed the plate altogether and was tagged out by Coke.
  6. Ninth inning: Adam Jones led off the inning and was hit by the pitch on his foot. After Huff lined out, Jones stole second. Mora flew out to centerfield. Luke was intentionally walked. Nolan Reimold flew out to left.

That's a lot of chances, right? And they couldn't score one more run. Frustrating. This loss is on the offense, because the pitching did its job. I suppose you could assign some blame to Jim Johnson, but if the Orioles had scored even one more run he wouldn't have pitched the 9th inning, and he hardly ever pitches more than one inning. No, this one is on the offense.

And the "been there, done that" take, courtesy of Roch Kubatko: "Walk-Off Loss."
I've seen too many games in the Bronx end in this fashion. Different stadium, same outcome.


The Orioles had Cesar Izturis and Brian Roberts thrown out at the plate in the eighth inning, on a grounder to first and an apparent wild pitch. Again, I've seen just about everything in the Bronx. This stuff happens and you can't really explain it. Only the names change.
I experienced all three emotions as I watched the Orioles fail to take advantage of late-inning opportunities, but I ultimately settled on the "been there, done that" mentality. In fact, I turned up the volume on the television and went into the other room to do some work during the bottom of the ninth inning because, well, I knew what was coming. You could sense it after each missed opportunity.

This is still a young O's team, so there continues to be room for optimism. This kind of loss would hurt a whole lot more in a couple years time when the Birds will presumably be in contention for something (A winning record? A Wild Card berth? The division?).

The lesson is simple - and similar to Stacey's headline: Good teams don't beat themselves. Jim Palmer says it often as it was a mentality of the Glory Days Orioles.

Consider the words of Elrod Hendricks about playing for Earl Weaver and then Billy Martin (emphasis added).
Their teams were built around pitching and defense. That’s the one thing they did not tolerate, not being able to do the little things. Bunt the guy over, make the routine play, don’t beat yourself, let the other team beat themselves. That’s the way they played the game and that’s the way they managed the game.
O's fans can take one additional bit of cheer from last night's game: Because the Yankees are playing in a new ballpark, we didn't have to hear about the "ghosts" at the stadium contributing to the outcome, just a pitch left out over the plate and a batter who took advantage of the mistake.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The August Swoon Is a Myth

Forget what you've heard about the August swoon.

The August swoon is a myth generated by a collection of dramatic events that occurred during the 2007 season. In truth, late July - specifically, around the month's third week - has been a better barometer of the Orioles fortunes in recent seasons.

This fact should cause O's fans some concern as the team stares down a brutal slate this week at Yankee Stadium and then Fenway.

The birth of a myth

The Orioles were 9-19 in August 2007 following an encouraging 15-10 mark in July. The symbolic collapse included a 30-3 shellacking at the hands of the Rangers and the firing of Sam Perlozzo, both of which gave rise to the idea - now conventional wisdom - that August is the truest of all enemies to the Orioles.

However, the O's sandwiched the myth-generating 2007 season between two seasons when July was worse than August in terms of the team's record.

Consider an even broader perspective. In seven of nine seasons from 2000 through 2008 the O's have experienced losing streaks around the third week of July that defined their season more so than did games in August. And in six of those seven seasons, the team's record was worse in July than it was in August.

In other words, the next week of the season will go a long way to determining the success of the 2009 season in terms of the team's overall record.

Here's the rundown:

The O's tallied a five-game losing streak from July 22 to July 26 - a four-game sweep at the hands of Toronto followed by loss to the Angels.

July record: 10-16
August record: 11-17

The O's suffered a four-game losing streak from July 18 to July 22 - two straight losses to Oakland followed by two straight losses to the Rays - during a stretch where the Birds lost five of six.

July record: 11-15
August record: 12-14

The O's endured a six-game losing streak from July 19 to July 25 - two straight losses to Minnesota, three straight to the Rays and a loss to Texas. This was followed by an eight-game losing streak from July 27 to Aug. 3 that included two losses to Texas, four to Chicago, and two to the Angels.

July record: 8-18
August record: 11-17

The O's lost seven of 10 from July 22 to Aug. 1 in match-ups with Boston, Minnesota, and the Yankees.

July record: 14-14
August record: 13-15

The O's lost 7 of 8 from July 21 to July 28 in match-ups with Chicago, Toronto, Boston, and Tampa Bay.

July record: 11-14
August record: 14-16

The O's lost 11 of 12 from July 15 to July 26, including a six-game slide from the 15th to the 21st, in match-ups with the Marlins, Rangers, Angels, and Rangers.

July record: 6-21
August record: 11-16


The O's went on a five-game losing streak from July 23 to July 29 in match-ups with Toronto, New York, and Cleveland.

July record: 13-14
August record: 14-15

From Jeremy Guthrie's strong outing on Sunday to the team's lively bats throughout the weekend, there was plenty of optimism to be taken from the Orioles' series against the White Sox despite the fact that they lost two of the three games.

However, things could change fast, and if they do we may be staring at an ugly final record for the Birds.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

An Orioles Hall of Famer ... Sort Of

A former Oriole enters the Hall of Fame on Sunday.

Okay, so it's a former Orioles minor leaguer.

And it's not actually the Hall of Fame but rather the "Shrine of the Eternals," an alternative Hall of Fame that looks beyond statistics alone to consider "the distinctiveness of play (good or bad); the uniqueness of character and personality; and the imprint that the individual has made on the baseball landscape."

The player in question is Steve Dalkowski, whose named popped up in a Roar from 34 posting about Joe Altobelli earlier this season. On Sunday, the New York Times (it's no Roar from 34) detailed Dalkowski's colorful career in the story "A Hall of Fame for a Legendary Fastball Pitcher."

Batters in the minors spoke with wonder of pitches they could hear but could not see. One poor guy in Kingsport, Tenn., took a fastball — “right in back of his ear, right on the hairline,” Dalkowski recalled. The legend is that the man was never the same.

Ted Williams, who had heard of this Dalkowski fellow, invited himself into the cage before a spring exhibition but promptly disinvited himself after listening to a whoosh or two. The Baltimore Orioles’ organization took Dalkowski to a military base to time his fastball — over 100 miles per hour seems to be the conservative figure for his peak speed.

Before long, Dalkowski was a legend, for his fastball as well as his tumblers of vodka for breakfast. Ron Shelton, an Orioles farmhand six years younger than Dalkowski, rarely heard Brooks Robinson stories or Frank Robinson stories from the managers in the organization, but everybody had Dalkowski stories.

Cal Ripken Sr., who had been Dalkowski’s catcher, said he was relatively easy to handle because he was wild high and low but did not pitch inside too often. Joe Altobelli told how Dalkowski came to the ballpark thoroughly hung over, and never worked out, but was a good teammate — “not a mean bone in his body,” Shelton quoted Altobelli saying.

The organization decided to have the young flame thrower room with the old player, figuring Dalkowski might learn something. But it was hard for Altobelli to teach a roomie who was never in the room.

Years later, while writing a screenplay, Shelton remembered the relationship between a brash young pitcher and a wise old head. The movie was named “Bull Durham,” with Tim Robbins as the speedballer who was all over the place.

“In the minors, you’d see guys who had these amazing gifts,” Shelton said the other day. “It would drive you nuts.”

Shelton has never met Dalkowski but will introduce him Sunday night — a couple of former farmhands who never reached what the movie memorably called the Show. Dalkowski came close, after a year at Elmira under patient tutelage from Earl Weaver, of all people.

“He let me pitch,” Dalkowski said. “He sort of called the pitches. He’d whistle or move to one end of the dugout or the other, or he’d hit his hand against the wall.”

Weaver had him primed for the majors in the spring of 1963, when Dalkowski blew down the Yankees for a few innings under the lights in Miami. Pitching to Phil Linz, “I felt something pop,” Dalkowski said. It was a ligament in his elbow, and he was never the same. He hung on for a few more years, and finished with an amazing 1,396 strikeouts and 1,354 walks in only 995 innings.

Speaking of past Roar from 34 material, The Sun's game story about Saturday's 4-3 loss to the White Sox notes the following: "Dropping two straight to start the second half, the Orioles have lost a series to an AL Central team for the first time since 2007 against the Detroit Tigers."

I examined the O's success against the central in the June 9 posting "Go Central, Young Birds."

Consider this: "Since their last winning season in 1997 (excluding this year), the Birds have compiled an overall record of 791-989, 'good' for a .444 winning percentage. During that same period, the O's are 215-210 against the A.L. Central, better for a .506 winning percentage."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Flashback Friday: Brooks Robinson & the 1966 All-Star Game

"Brooks was all over the place, sucking up everything at third base. He was something. Great player and a great guy, too."
-Tim McCarver

McCarver scored the game-winning run in the 1966 All-Star Game.

The Tuesday night All-Star Game was played in quickfire fashion before more than 40,000 fans in St. Louis' new stadium. Joe Torre was in the National League dugout. And after a low-scoring contest decided by one run, the Most Valuable Player award went to a guy who failed to drive in a run.


Try 1966, when St. Louis hosted the fourth of five All-Star games to be played in the city (1940, 1948, 1957, 1966, and 2009) before 49,936 fans at the new Busch Memorial Stadium. Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson was named MVP after going 3-for-4 with a triple and a run in the two-hour, nineteen-minute game, won 2-1 by the National League.

That's where they similarities end.

Robinson played the entire game, unheard of in modern All-Star history, and recorded four putouts and four assists in the field. On the base paths, he twice advanced on wild pitches - first to score a second-inning run off Sandy Koufax and again in the 10th inning to move into scoring position against Gaylord Perry.

After leading off extra innings with a single and reaching second base with no outs, Robinson went no farther. Norm Cash flew out to center for the inning's first out, Bobby Richardson popped up for the second out, and Jim Fregosi struck out to end the top half of the inning.

The National League won the game in the bottom of the inning when a Maury Wills single off Pete Richert scored Tim McCarver from second base.

The Cardinals' McCarver replaced the Braves' Torre at catcher in the top of the eighth inning and finished 1-for-1 at the plate. One year later McCarver would go 2-for-2 in the second of his two career All-Star Game appearances, leaving him with a perfect 1.000 batting average at the Midsummer Classic.

While the home-town hero scored the winning run for the National League in 1966, McCarver admits that the MVP award that day ended up where it belonged, in Robinson's hands.

"I didn't play long enough to deserve that," says McCarver "Brooks was all over the place, sucking up everything at third base. He was something. Great player and a great guy, too."

Image source: Flickr

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thursday Morning Orioles Rundown

“I put myself in a situation to get drafted high and now I’m with the Orioles. And I couldn’t be any luckier. This is a great place to be and I’m enjoying every day of it.”

-O's prospect Brian Matusz

From Sen. Ben Cardin's loyalty to the Orioles to Brian Matusz's take on playing baseball for a living, here's a rundown of some recent odds and ends from the Orioles universe:

Cardin Knows Baseball, Congressional Quarterly Does Not

Sen. Ben Cardin obviously doesn't believe in the saying "Don't mix business with pleasure." (There's a joke about Congress in there - many in fact - but I'll leave those to your imagination.) In Cardin's case, Orioles baseball is what pleases him.

Twenty years ago, then-Rep. Cardin introduced a Congressional Resolution celebrating the Birds' Opening Day victory over the Yankees. The resolution read as follows: "The Sun is shining, the flowers are blooming and the birds are singing. Of course, I am talking about the birds of Baltimore. The Baltimore Orioles are back where they belong, in first place in the American League East."

On Wednesday, Sen. Cardin talked Orioles baseball with Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

CARDIN: I just want you to know that the baseball fans of Baltimore knew there was a judge somewhere that changed in a very favorable way the reputation of Baltimore forever. You are a hero, and they now know it's Judge Sotomayor. You're a hero to the Baltimore baseball fans. Let me explain.

The Major League Baseball strike -- you allowed the season to continue so Cal Ripkin could become the iron man of baseball in September 1995.

So we just want to invite you, as a baseball fan, we want to invite you to an Oriole game, and we promise it will not be when the Yankees are playing so you can root for the Baltimore Orioles.

SONIA SOTOMAYOR: That's a great invitation. And good morning, Senator. You can assure your Baltimore fans that I have been to Camden Yards. It's a beautiful stadium.

CARDIN: Well, we think it's the best. Of course, it was the beginning of the new trends of the baseball stadiums. And you're certainly welcome.

It would appear, however, that the folks at Congressional Quarterly are not as big of baseball fans as is Cardin. If they were, they wouldn't have misspelled Cal Ripken's last name - "Ripkin" - in the transcript.

Matusz Happy to Be Playing Baseball, Happy to Be an Oriole

The O's prospect I'm most looking forward to seeing in big league Orange and Black, Brian Matusz, sat down for an interview with Baseball Daily Digest.

“Once you get to college, a 90 mile per hour fastball is pretty common,” he said. “So, a change up was one of the best things I could have learned during my freshman year. It felt natural, but I worked on it a lot with our pitching coach Eric Valenzuela. I felt like I could keep my arm speed consistent with my fastball and it ended up being very good in my sophomore and junior years.

“The slider was a pitch I worked on my sophomore year, right before the season. I tried to learn a cutter. I just messed around with it and it turned into a slider. It’s a different angle and look than the curveball. And when you have two breaking pitches to keep batters guessing, you’re in pretty good shape.”

By his junior year at University of San Diego, Matusz was a first team All-American and, according to the 2009 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, few pitchers entering professional baseball have had better secondary pitches. So when Baltimore selected Matusz with the fourth-overall pick of the baseball amateur draft, he was widely considered the best pitcher available.

“I put myself in a situation to get drafted high and now I’m with the Orioles,” Matusz said. “And I couldn’t be any luckier. This is a great place to be and I’m enjoying every day of it.”


Matusz is one of several promising young pitchers who will be vying for a spot in the Orioles rotation in the coming years. Still, the lanky prospect knows his performance is all he can control and consistency will get him to the major leagues.

“It’s just a matter of maintaining,” Matusz said. “The whole point of this first year is to get that five-day rotation and go deep into the year. I’m locked in right now. It’s just a matter of time and getting my innings in.

“Getting to play baseball for a living is the best thing in the world. I talk to other people and if they’re lucky they’re going to work to sit at a desk. My job is throwing a baseball and having fun playing a game that I loved since I was a little kid. It’s an unbelievable opportunity. I think about it everyday.”

Mazzone Unlikely to Return to Beltway Baseball Scene

There are denials, and then there's a Stan Kasten denial. Said Kasten about the prospects of Leo Mazzone coming to the Natinals (sic): "There is not a scintilla of truth to this story."

According to an industry source familiar with the talks, the Nationals have discussed their pitching coach job with Mazzone, whom Kasten knows from their days together with the Atlanta Braves.

Although current Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty does not have the "interim" label attached to his title - as interim general manager Mike Rizzo and interim manager Jim Riggleman do - the Nationals have not committed to McCatty in that role beyond this season. McCatty was promoted from Class AAA Syracuse to replace the fired Randy St. Claire on June 2.

Ichiro Pays Respects to Sisler

Miguel Tejada holds the Orioles' team record for hits in a season with 214 in 2006. While George Sisler's former major league record for hits in a season - 257 in 1920 - doesn't qualify for the team's record book, his career stats with the St. Louis Browns are included among the O's all-time leaders. For example, Sisler has the most career triples (145), second-highest career batting average (.344), third-most hits (2,295), third-most runs (1,091), and fourth-most doubles (343).

The Hall of Famer is buried in St. Louis, where Ichiro, who broke Sisler's single season hits record, visited his grave during All Star Weekend.

Ichiro, accompanied by his wife, Yumiko, and some friends, laid flowers at Sisler's grave, at Des Peres Presbyterian Church Cemetery. Sisler, a Hall of Famer, died on March 26, 1973. His career was marked by a lifetime .340 batting average, and a .407 average in 1920. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1939.

"There's not many chances to come to St. Louis," Ichiro said, according to the Seattle Times. "In 2004, it was the first time I crossed paths with him, and his family generously came all the way to Seattle."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Why Not? Wednesday: Why Don't O's Fans Hate Tony Fernandez?

The second installment of Roar from 34's series about the 1989 Why Not? season

Orioles fans don't hate Tony Fernandez. Why Not?

The obvious answer is that Fernandez played only one season with the Yankees in 1995, and he never appeared in a Red Sox uniform.

Even though he's never truly been a part of the division's Evil Empires, Fernandez has twice helped block the Orioles from post-season glory. That should be worth some hatred, right?

Fernandez was a member of the 1989 Toronto Blue Jays who edged the 87-win Orioles for the A.L. East title during the non-Wild Card era. Then, in 1997, the Cleveland Indians' clutch-hitting second baseman stroked an agonizing 11th inning home run off Armando Benitez to clinch the ALCS.

Nevertheless, O's fans are more likely to hate a kid who turned a sure out into a home run ball during an ALCS Game 1 than they are to hate the player who swatted a series-ending home run during an ALCS Game 6. Even if Fernandez didn't cheat to win, he still plunged the final dagger into our warm post-season hearts.

Two factors seem to explain the lack of hatred for Fernandez in Baltimore:

-First, Fernandez's extra-innings clout in the '97 ALCS came for the underdog Indians, so there was no inferiority complex at work.
The Wire-to-Wire O's finished 98-64. Cleveland finished 86-75.

It's fair to say that O's fans held somewhat generous feelings toward the Indians for knocking the Yankees out of the playoffs, even as the teams squared off in the ALCS. Also, there was a widely held sentiment entering Game 6 that the Birds would come back to win the series.

The reaction at Camden Yards to Fernandez's home run that October day was more shock than hatred (though we shouldn't have been surprised given that Benitez was on the mound). In fact, Orioles fans gave the Indians a standing ovation - a good old-fashioned tip of the cap - as they piled up on the mound after the game. I'm not sure we would've done the same thing for the Yankees.

Fernandez batted .357 during the '97 ALCS with a .438 on-base percentage.

-Second, while Fernandez was an All Star, a Gold Glove winner, and an MVP candidate in 1989, he didn't really perform well that season against the Orioles.

In 13 games against Baltimore Fernandez batted .235 with a .259 on-base percentage, no home runs, 7 RBIs, and one stolen base. His .235 batting average against the O's was among a handful of his worst numbers against any one team.

Meanwhile, in the Jays' division-clinching win in Toronto on Sept. 30, 1989, Fernandez went 0-for-4 including an eighth-inning ground out with two runners on.

Why hate a guy who's not producing?

So that's my answer to the Why Not? question surrounding Baltimore's lack of hatred for Tony Fernandez. Anyone else care to test out a theory?

Link to last week's Why Not? Wednesday: "Halfway Home and There's Still Hope."

Crawford's MVP Puts Him in the Company of Brooks Robinson

On Tuesday, Carl Crawford became the fourth player in major league history to be named MVP of the All Star Game without driving in a run. (Adam Jones drove in the most-important run, but that's another story.)

Oriole great Brooks Robinson is among that group of RBI-less MVPs. Robinson took home the 1966 MVP award after going 3-for-4 with a triple and a run in a game that also was played in St. Louis. He earned the honor even though the American League lost 2-1 to the National League.

Image source:

Baltimore's "All-Star Among Us"

I'd rather watch my sports heroes from afar and live among life's everyday heroes. Major League Baseball celebrated the latter group on Tuesday night as part of the All-Stars Among Us promotion.

Catonsville's Frank Kolarek represented the Orioles in St. Louis as one of 30 nationwide All-Stars Among Us. He appeared on the Busch Stadium field and briefly on camera in recognition of his work as the founder of League of Dreams, which gives Baltimore-area special needs children and adults the opportunity to play baseball and softball. Former O's shortstop Mike Bordick has been involved with the program and hopes to start a league in Maine.

Kolarek, a former catcher in the Oakland A's farm system, has been interviewed by ABC2News with a mention on the Inside Charm City blog and a thorough profile in The Catholic Review.
Kolarek will represent the Baltimore Orioles, as he was voted by fans in recognition of his work as founder and president of League of Dreams, a baseball and softball organization that gives children and adults with special needs the chance to play the games in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

“It’s big,” Kolarek said of the honor. “I wish we could take a busload of our kids. I’d sit out if they could go.”

Kolarek was one of seven children growing up in his family’s southwest Baltimore home. He attended St. Benedict School and served as an altar boy.

As a Mount St. Joseph upperclassman, he became a catcher and made an impression at Catonsville Community College. He transferred to the University of Maryland and shined for the Terps. Never taken in the major league draft, he signed a contract with the Athletics.

After his professional career was done, Kolarek returned to be an assistant coach for Maryland and quickly found out that he loved instructing the game.

Having taken an interest in those with special needs during his playing days, Kolarek also worked for Special Olympics’ international and Maryland branches.

“There’s always someone picked last and just trying to hang out,” Kolarek said. “Now our kids are making opportunities for other kids.”

The League of Dreams concept is taking hold. A park in Fresno, California is being built entirely with special needs accessibility and includes a baseball diamond. Kolarek said his organization will be the baseball and softball provider.

League of Dreams has also received support from many of Kolarek’s friends. Former Oriole shortstop Mike Bordick has been active in the program and is interested in starting a League of Dreams in Maine.
Here's some additional information about All-Stars Among Us from
These are the people who were chosen by MLB and People magazine for their community service. Nearly 750,000 votes were cast by fans across the nation in the All-Stars Among Us campaign to select the 30 winners -- one per Major League team -- out of the pool of 90 finalists who are serving as leaders within their communities.
And speaking of living among the everyday heroes, Kolarek happens to be one of my father's neighbors. Thanks for the tip, dad.

Luke Scott's Latest Eutaw Street Home Run

Roar from 34 was asleep at the switch this weekend and therefore neglected to report that Luke Scott recorded his third Eutaw Street home run (video) in Saturday's 4-3 victory against the Blue Jays.

Scott's fourth-inning, 394-foot shot tied him with Brady Anderson and Jason Giambi for second-most Eutaw Street home runs in Camden Yards history. Rafael Palmeiro leads the pack with five.

Scott is the third player to reach Eutaw Street this season after Aubrey Huff (two-time bronze bomber) on April 21 and Adam Dunn on June 28 (second-longest Eutaw Street home run). His latest drive was the 51st overall Eutaw Street home run.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Orioles' Second-Half Record Will Not Matter

Long-suffering Orioles fans will look to the second half of this baseball season for answers to two key questions: 1. Is a winning season on the horizon? and 2. Can the Birds contend in the division within two to three years?

Unfortunately, the team's record after the All-Star break won't provide any real answers to those questions.

Want evidence? Of course you do.

Consider the post-All Star break performances of other franchises with several consecutive losing seasons. Then consider the O's own performance during their current 11-year slide. Both indicators demonstrate that teams on the brink of a breakout year don't show their hand in the second half of the prior season.

It's not just about the Rays

The 2008 ALCS Champion Tampa Bay Rays are the easy baseball metaphor these days, the rags-to-riches example of an "overnight" success story that was actually years in the making. They are what the Orioles strive to be, right down to beating the Red Sox with all the marbles on the table.

So how did the Rays perform after the 2007 All Star break? Just like they did in every other half-season prior before then - not well.

The Rays were 32-43 (.427 win percentage) after the '07 break, an improvement from the 34-53 (.391) mark they posted to start the season but still no great indicator that they would storm the gates of the division's Evil Empires in 2008.

The Rays lost consecutive series to the Red Sox, Yankees, and Blue Jays, respectively, to close out 2007. For the season they were 5-13 against Boston, 8-10 against New York, and 7-11 against the Orioles. The only division opponent who didn't win their season series with the Rays in 2007 was the Blue Jays, who finished 9-9 against Tampa.

One year later the Rays won their season series with Boston (10-8), Baltimore (15-3), and Toronto (11-7). Only the Yankees topped them in '08 (7-11).

You may think the Rays are the only example, but wait ... there's more!

The Detroit Tigers endured 12 straight losing seasons before righting the ship in 2006 and sailing to the World Series. The Tigers' 2005 record after the break was 29-47 (.382). They ended the season by losing five straight and 13 of 17.

The 2005 Brewers finished an even .500 to end a 12-season losing streak. The Brewers' 2004 record after the break was 22-53 (.293). They were 5-15 in their last 20 games.

And the Royals finished 83-79 in 2003
to end a run of nine straight losing seasons. The Royals' 2002 record after the break was 29-48 (.377). They were swept by Cleveland, who finished 74-88, to end the season.

The Orioles may well end their run of losing seasons in 2010. Just don't look to their record after this year's All-Star break for clues that it's going to happen.

But what about us?

You know the Orioles have 11 consecutive losing seasons. You know they slump in August. But do you know how many times they've had a winning record after the break since their last winning season in 1997?

The answer is three. And not one of those seasons (1998, 1999, and 2004) was an indicator of future success.

The 2004 season initially did look like an indicator of good things to come in 2005 when the O's started the latter year 47-40, which gave the team an 88-76 (.537) combined record between the 2004 and 2005 All-Star games. But from Mazzilli to Palmeiro, the Birds imploded for a 74-88 overall record in 2005.

What about 2000? The O's won 8 of their last 11 and swept the Yankees to end the season ... and then lost 98 games in 2001.

Heck, I'll even throw in the 1988 Orioles, whose 107 losses were the most in modern franchise history. The next season
- "Why Not?" - they finished 87-75. Who could've seen it coming?

The moral of the story

Whether it's tracking the progress of Brad Bergesen on the mound or Matt Wieters at the dish, there's plenty to be excited about in Birdland for the remainder of 2009. And the games themselves do matter. But don't get discouraged should the O's record come up well short of expectations.

As they say in the financial world, "Past performance is not an indication of future success."

Extra Bases

What's left for the Birds?

The 40-48 O's will play exactly half of their remaining 74 games against teams in the top two of their respective divisions.

Here's how it breaks down:

-20 games against the Yankees and Red Sox.

-10 games against Tigers and White Sox.

-7 games against Angels and Rangers.

Second Half Blues

In 812 post All-Star break games from 1998 through 2008, the Orioles are 347-465 (.427). However, the Birds posted a winning mark in the season's symbolic second half in 1998, 1999, and 2004.

Here's the rundown on the team's second-half record by season:

22-45, .328 winning percentage

31-43, .419 winning percentage

29-43, .403 winning percentage

27-48, .360 winning percentage

41-36, .532 winning percentage

30-41, .423 winning percentage

25-52, .325 winning percentage

23-51, .311 winning percentage

36-40, .474 winning percentage

42-33, .560 winning percentage

41-33, .554 winning percentage

Monday, July 13, 2009

Checking in with my Orioles Magic 8-Ball

The All-Star Break is a perfect time to check in with my Orioles Magic 8-Ball to see whether it's still speaking the same language that it was prior to the season.

Here's a review of my thoughts and predictions for the Birds in 2009 along with the appropriate Magic 8-Ball responses.

Did see it coming
: Matt Wieters promotion to the big club early in the season and lots of associated hype.

Didn't see it coming: Brad Bergesen operating under the radar but still becoming an honest-to-goodness Rookie-of-the-Year candidate. Bergesen is 6-3 at the break with a 3.54 ERA and 10 quality starts in 16 games pitched.

Magic 8-Ball says: "Outlook Good."

Did see it coming: A log-jam in left field including the likes of Felix Pie, Lou Montanez, Ryan Freel, and Luke Scott.

Didn't see it coming: Nolan Reimold taking over the spot, earning June Rookie of the Month honors, and entering the Rookie-of-the-Year conversation before a recent slump.

Magic 8-Ball says: "Cannot Predict Now."

Did see it coming: Lots of at-bats in the designated-hitter spot for Luke Scott. At the break Scott has 180 at-bats and 203 plate appearances as the O's DH.

Didn't see it coming: What Scott has done with those at-bats: .305, 18 HR, 51 RBI, .976 OPS, AL Player of the Week in June after homering in four straight games, seven RBIs against Seattle in July.

Magic 8-Ball says: "It is Decidedly So."

Did see it coming: A scuffling O's rotation.

Didn't see it coming: Jeremy Guthrie's 5.35 ERA.

Magic 8-Ball says: "Outlook Not So Good."

Did see it coming: Adam Jones taking the next step toward becoming a legitimate star.

Didn't see it coming: That there would be an "All" next to the "Star" this season.

Magic 8-Ball response: "It Is Certain."

Did see it coming: A win total in the low-to-mid 70s and a run at the Blue Jays for fourth place.

The Birds (currently 40-48; 36-45 at the season's midway point) are on pace to win 70 or more games and are within shouting distance of the Jays.

Magic 8-Ball Says: "Ask Again Later."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Flashback Friday: Diamond Jim Gentile's 9 RBI Day

"Everyone has one of those career years. It seemed everything went my way and I was always getting base hits at the right time. When men got on, I was getting base hits."

-Jim Gentile, on his 1961 season.

On Tuesday, Luke Scott tallied 7 RBIs against the Mariners in a 12-4 Orioles victory. Scott's RBI effort was two off the team record, held by former first baseman Jim Gentile. This week's Flashback Friday details Gentile's heavy hitting ways during an outstanding 1961 season when he compiled his best career numbers.

Gentile's record-setting nine RBIs came on May 9, 1961, in a 13-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins. If anyone tells you they were there, they're lying; only 4,514 fans attended the game at Metropolitan Stadium. Gentile finished 2-for-3 with a walk, a sac fly, and - oh, by the way - two grand slams.

Gentile cleared the bases in consecutive innings to start the game; he is one 12 players to hit two grand slams in a game, three of whom are Orioles: Gentile, Frank Robinson (June 26, 1970) and Chris Hoiles (Aug. 14, 1998). He finished the 1961 season with five grand slams, breaking Ernie Bank's 1955 total for the major league record that now belongs to Don Mattingly, who hit six grand slams in 1986.

The player who went by the sobriquet "Diamond Jim" after famed Dodger catcher Roy Campanella called him "a diamond in the rough" during the Dodgers' 1956 tour of Japan batted .302 with 46 home runs, 141 RBIs, and a .423 on-base percentage in 1961. The effort earned the then-27 year old an All-Star berth and third place in the Most Valuable Player vote behind two players who were having pretty decent seasons of their own in 1961: Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle.

"Everyone has one of those career years," said Gentile, in a 1999 Baseball Digest article. "It seemed everything went my way and I was always getting base hits at the right time. When men got on, I was getting base hits."

In 1996, Gentile lost two club records that he established during the 1961 season: most home runs by a left-handed batter (Brady Anderson hit 50 in '96) and most RBIs (Rafael Palmeiro drove in 142 in '96). Nevertheless, Gentile's 1961 surge produced two records that still stand: most game-winning RBIs (unofficially - 21) and highest slugging average (.646). His 46 home runs are the third most in O's history behind Anderson and Frank Robinson (49 in 1966).

Image source: Here.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Earl Weaver in Sports Illustrated

"That one with Haller was embarrassing. We both acted like five-year-olds. 'My dad can beat up your dad' kind of thing. It's terrible."

-Earl Weaver

Any excuse to post this YouTube video of a September 1980 Earl Weaver argument with umpire Bill Haller is a good one, but in this case it's a really good excuse. Sports Illustrated interviewed Weaver for its annual "Where Are They Now?" edition.

In the lengthy SI piece Weaver describes the outburst, immortalized by YouTube, as "embarrassing." The excerpt about the Haller argument follows.

Earl Weaver was thrown out of more American League games than any other manager in history. He was thrown out in spring training. He was thrown out in the World Series. He was thrown out twice in one day. Twice. (Both ends of a doubleheader.) He was thrown out by an amateur umpire. (The regulars were on strike.)

"Most of the umpires, it's amazing, 98 percent of them will not hold a grudge," Weaver says. "I always felt a couple of them did. I never wanted to argue with an umpire in my life."

Come on, I tell him.

"No," Weaver says, "but in the heat of battle, when you think something is taken away from you, I had to go out there and holler at them. I knew it wasn't going to do much. That one with Haller was embarrassing. We both acted like five-year-olds. 'My dad can beat up your dad' kind of thing. It's terrible."

The Haller argument, which happened the year after Baltimore blew a three-games-to-one lead to Pittsburgh in the '79 World Series, lives on in YouTube posterity because Haller was wired for sound for a local newsmagazine show. Haller is the same umpire who said of Weaver in 2007, "When the bastard dies, they'll have to hire pallbearers."

Another umpire, Ron Luciano, once said he didn't care who won the AL East, so long as it wasn't Weaver and the Orioles. The league kept Luciano off Baltimore games for a year because of that comment. When the ban expired, Luciano threw Weaver out the first chance he got, ejecting him before Weaver even cleared the top step of the dugout to argue a strike call. Weaver protested the game and had the grounds for his protest announced over the stadium loudspeakers: "Umpire integrity."

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Why Not? Wednesdays: Halfway Home and There's Hope

Twenty years ago the Orioles had fans in Baltimore asking "Why Not?" On Wednesdays, Roar from 34 will revisit a game from that same week of the season to see how the O's were putting together an improbable pennant chase just one season removed from 107 losses and a 21-game losing streak to start the year.

On July 5, 1989, the Why Not? Orioles defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 5-4 at the new Skydome to improve to 47-34, 23 games better than their record at the 1988 halfway point. The team's early success led to appearances by Frank Robinson on "Good Morning America" and Gregg Olson and Mickey Tettleton on "Today" prior to the team's trip to Toronto.

Bob Milacki (5-8) earned the victory over Jimmy Key (7-8) during five innings of work that included seven Blue Jay hits and three runs. Key went eight innings, giving up 12 hits and five runs. Gregg Olson got the save for the O's with two innings of work, including a shaky eighth inning that ended with a Lloyd Moseby fly ball with the bases loaded.

Reserve catcher Bob Melvin paced the Orioles at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs.
Melvin, in the first of his three seasons with Baltimore, finished the year batting .241 with one home run and 32 RBIs in 85 games.

Phil Bradley chipped in a home run, Craig Worthington recorded an RBI double, and Randy Milligan added an RBI single for the O's.

The Jays got solid production from the 2-3-4 spots in their lineup as Tony Fernandez and Kelly Gruber went 2-for-4 and George Bell finished 3-for-4.

The match-up in Toronto was the Birds' second go-round with the Blue Jays. Baltimore won both early season series by taking two of three from the eventual A.L. East champions. The Orioles finished 7-6 against the Blue Jays in 1989.

After the July 5 game, the Jays stood 10 games behind the O's in sixth place.

O's Odds and Ends: Could Someone Please Send ESPN an O's Media Guide?

O's Odds and Ends: The Appreciation Edition.

The rundown: Luke Scott deserves appreciation, Brian Matusz looks like he'll earn some of his own, and the O's would appreciate having their names prounounced correctly.

-He's been the American League Player of the Week. Curtis Granderson figuratively tipped his cap to him back in June. And after his career-high seven RBI night during the O's 12-4 victory Tuesday in Seattle, Luke Scott is the talk of the town. Still, it doesn't seem like enough given the effort that Scott has put together so far during a season that he entered with an uncertain role.

Scott's 17 homers lead the team, and he's third in RBIs behind Aubrey Huff and Nick Markakis. This despite the fact that he's sixth on the team in at-bats, more than 80 behind Adam Jones and Huff and more than 100 behind Markakis. He leads the team (minus Danys Baez ... no, seriously) in slugging percentage, and his .981 OPS would rank third in the American League had he played in enough games to qualify in the rankings. (Note: Scott has only seven fewer at-bats than the Rays' Ben Zobrist who leads the American Leage with a .998 OPS.)

Earlier this season Scott became the first Oriole to homer in four straight games since Miguel Tejada in 2005. His consecutive multi-homer games as part of that binge were the first for the club since Albert Belle did it in 2000. On Tuesday, he became first O's player to drive in seven runs in a game since Ramon Hernandez on May 23, 2006. His seven RBIs were two off the club record, set by Jim Gentile against the Twins on May 9, 1961.

Say it loud, say it proud: Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuke.

Other O's odds and ends:

-As the O's faced their former homegrown, left-handed ace in the Emerald State on Tuesday, a new homegrown, left-handed ace took the mound in Bowie and pitched a gem.

Brian Matusz fanned 11, walked none, and allowed just one hit for the Baysox in a 6-0 victory over the Harrisburg Senators. Matusz started his Bowie career in June with a six-inning, 10 strikeout "masterpiece" against the Reading Phillies.

Matusz and Man Crush both start with the letter "M." Coincidence?

-Could someone please send an Orioles media guide to the folks in Bristol?

One day after changing Kam Mickolio's first name to "Kim," the SportsCenter crew messed up Dave Trembley's last name. ESPN's Steve Levy called Trembley by the name "Trombley" twice on Tuesday morning.